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Disciplinary Counsel v. Williams

Supreme Court of Ohio

December 19, 2017

Disciplinary Counsel
v.
Williams.

          Submitted August 29, 2017

         On Certified Report by the Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court, No. 2016-070.

          Scott J. Drexel, Disciplinary Counsel, Joseph M. Caligiuri, Chief Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, and Audrey E. Varwig, Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, for relator.

          Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter Co., L.P.A., and Jonathan E. Coughlan, for respondent.

          PER CURIAM.

         {¶ 1} Respondent, Cynthia Ann Williams, of Hillsboro, Ohio, Attorney Registration No. 0055541, was admitted to the practice of law in Ohio in 1991.

         {¶ 2} In a December 6, 2016 complaint, relator, disciplinary counsel, alleged that Williams abused the prestige of her judicial office to advance her personal interests in violation of Jud.Cond.R. 1.3 by asserting her status as a magistrate in an attempt to avoid arrest during a traffic stop. Based on the parties' stipulations and Williams's hearing testimony, a panel of the Board of Professional Conduct found that Williams committed the charged violation and recommended that she be publicly reprimanded for her misconduct. The board adopted the panel's findings and recommended sanction.

         {¶ 3} We agree that Williams abused the prestige of her judicial office to advance her personal interests and publicly reprimand her for her misconduct.

         Misconduct

         {¶ 4} Williams was appointed as a magistrate of the Highland County Court of Common Pleas, General Division, on July 14, 1997, and on April 1, 2015, she was appointed as a magistrate of that court's probate and juvenile divisions.

         {¶ 5} The parties stipulate that on July 9, 2016, at approximately 3:30 a.m., an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper stopped Williams on State Route 32 in Union Township, Clermont County, Ohio, after observing her vehicle drift to the left of the solid white fog line. The trooper asked Williams to step out of her vehicle and inquired about how much she had had to drink; she stated that she had two beers. When the trooper began to administer the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, Williams stated, "I'm a magistrate." In response, the trooper asked Williams where she was a magistrate, and she replied, "Highland County." Then, the trooper told her that he had to make sure that she was not driving while intoxicated.

         {¶ 6} Minutes later, when the trooper was instructing Williams on the walk-and- turn field sobriety test, she told him, "I'm a judge. My son's a Secret Service officer. I would not be driving drunk." After the trooper handcuffed her and informed her that she did not pass the field sobriety test, she said, "Please! I'm a judge. Don't do this to me. I did not flunk this. I didn't flunk it!" Seconds later, when Williams was in the back seat of the trooper's cruiser, she said, "Sir, I'm going to lose my job! Please let me speak to my attorney. Officer! Officer, listen to me! I may lose my job. Would you please let me speak to my attorney in the car? Please?" She then repeated, "I'm a judge. My son's a Secret Service officer."

         {¶ 7} At no time did the trooper solicit information about Williams's judicial status or ask her to provide information that would disclose her judicial status. And the parties stipulate that if the trooper had provided sworn testimony about the incident, he would have testified that he believed that Williams mentioned her judicial status in order to avoid being arrested.

         {¶ 8} Williams pled no contest to reckless operation in violation of R.C. 4511.20, a third-degree misdemeanor. The court found her guilty and sentenced her to 30 days in jail, with 27 days suspended; imposed two years of community-control sanctions, including three days at a residential driver's intervention program; and fined her $200 plus court costs. In addition, the ...


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